Would you have Crucified Christ?

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I have often said that it our own insecurities that fuel our need to judge others.These insecurities when combined with other insecure individuals can hit a fever pitch within communities who share a similar belief.  Communities wherein are found a dominant religion are more subject to this fever pitch than others.  My comments are centered around the state of Utah and the LDS faith that are dominant in that area, yet I know that the same holds true in other communities where any religion is dominant.

I have wrestled with this post much over the past months.  I have been prompted many times to write regarding this subject yet have great trepidation in doing so.  I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and I live in the Salt Lake Valley.  My faith in the teachings of the Church are secure and firm as I deeply understand the principle teachings of our church, yet I find tremendous disappointment in the vast insecurities of both the members and former members and their incessant need to judge, shame and ostracize others.

One rule in this post, there will be no toleration for any negative attacks towards this church or any other religion in the comments of this post, they will be removed.  This is about individuals and their own insecurities, not a church.

I have heard it said that we should treat others as we would treat our Savior Jesus Christ.  That we should love one another, serve one another and lift one anothers burdens. If that being so, if we cause harm in any way to another are we not guilty of violating this?  Would we have also participated in the crucifixion of Christ if our actions today towards others hurt and destroy?

In a society with a dominant religion, many people feel that in order to fit in that they must belong to that particular faith.   While many would argue that is not the case and that those members are warm, loving and welcoming people, I disagree.  As a member of that dominant religion, this is simply untrue.

Anyone reading this blog knows and understands that my life simply does not fit with the ideal Mormon home and family.  I have personally experienced and felt the cruel, harsh and painful comments, actions, and judgements of those with “holier than thou” attitudes towards others.  If it were not for my deep testimony and belief in the teachings, I would have left this church years ago based upon the actions of those in the community.

I see this happen regularly within our community, where those who struggle in life due to circumstances created either by others, fate or themselves, who have trials sometimes too much too bear are ostracized by the very people whom you would think would practice what their church teaches and “love one another” even as Jesus Christ loves each of us.

My experiences from coming home from my mission onward to today have created empathy within me to see others for who they are, not who anyone thinks they should be!  The church teaches that one of its missions on earth is the perfecting of the saints.  Perfecting is a process as no one on this earth is or ever will be perfect.  That one perfect individual, our Savior has already come and no one else will ever be perfect.  Perfecting requires work and time, not the here and now.

So with that clear principle, why do others in communities with dominant religions judge those who are not perfect?  Why are so many ostracized, criticized, shamed or belittled for not being perfect?  For being different?  For not believing? and why is it that those who choose to leave the church become worse than those within in their attacks and persecution of others?

The answer is personal insecurity.  Those who shame, judge, criticize or ostracize others are deeply insecure that others may find that they too are not perfect and therefore find themselves subject to the same unrealistic standards they force upon others.  Ones they know they cannot possibly live up to.  They misdirect the attention from themselves towards those who are different or struggling in some way to avoid the self reflection within themselves, as they most certainly would be repulsed by what they see staring back at them when their own standards are applied.

So if you are one who finds the need to comment, avoid, shame or judge others who are different, look in the mirror and see what true hatred and animosity looks like,  If you stop your kids from playing with someone who is of a different religion, avoid those with tattoos, smokers, coffee drinkers or drinkers of alcohol; if you invite one family and not another to the neighborhood barbeque because they are different or not a member, if you wave to one neighbor who attends church but look away at the one who doesn’t then STOP IT! Stop crucifying others and start living what you profess and begin to replace your own personal insecurities with love and compassion.

Are you the Pharisee or Sadducee within the church who pressed for Christ’s crucifixion or the sinner believing in Christ and his redemptive power to heal?  Would you have crucified Christ?  What do your personal actions in how you treat, talk, and respond to others say about you?

The person you are directing your judgment towards, avoiding, shaming or ostracizing more than likely understands love, empathy, compassion and service greater than you ever could.  All Christlike qualities.  I for one stand with those who have felt betrayed, scorned, ridiculed, shamed and judged within a community for a life given and not chosen.

As we find our path and choose our way in life we do so within our own abilities and control.  We accept and move forward in life with those things we cannot control, such as illness and other peoples choices.

What we see in others is a reflection of what we see in ourselves.

 

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Smooth Sailing or Stormy Seas?

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Where we spend our time is what we attract into our lives.  Many of the posts found in this blog are about my family and my children.  I ache everyday that my children are not with me.  I struggle at times seeing above that cloud that is ever present in my life.  Many times I am unsuccessful in these attempts and the storms wash over me.  These moments most often create the opportunity for me to correct my course. 

The wonderful lesson throughout our lives is that when the sea is smooth, it’s rather easy to slowly drift off course as we are not paying the needed attention in our lives to the things that matter most.  The complacency created by our smooth sailing takes our focus off of our destination and where we need to be, we drift quietly along headed in the general direction, yet with each slight change in course, our targeted destination becomes exponentially further away toward the impending storms.

It is during those moments when the storms arise and wash over us when we most likely refocus our attention to the direction we are sailing.  It is then that we more clearly see the change in course we have experienced and the struggle to correct our direction begins.  Many times the waves encountered press hard against us and fight our desire to turn the ship.  It becomes great work as we correct our course back into the smooth seas we most enjoy.

The real lesson should be that as I learn from each course correction how much I dislike the choppy water that the times spent in the things that matter most on the smooth seas will keep me focused and headed for the promised destination ahead, without ever drifting off course toward those torrential storms that are lurking each time our direction ever so slightly changes. 

Keeping an eye and spending the time on the important things can keep us far from that stormy sea that no one enjoys.

Whats Your Story?

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We all have our own story, life is our story.  Each of us have been given a unique and distinctly different story to tell.  How many of us share our stories?  Do we open ourselves up to others and share our experiences in life and what we have learned along the way?

My story is one that few people know all the details.   My wife knows a lot of them, my mother some, my brothers a little and friends and neighbors even less.  I oftentimes hear that my story is one that if fully known that few people would be able to live.  I guess that in many ways I would disagree with that statement as I do not believe that my life’s story has been any more challenging than someone else and their story, just different.

There are some whose challenges seem to be greater and more difficult than others.  Sometimes those difficulties arise from our own poor choices.  Others times they arise from the choices of others.  Sometimes these greater challenges are given to us by a kind and loving Father in Heaven who sees us for what we are to become, understanding this He gives us the opportunities to grow and develop in ways that require a difficult path.  Purity comes from the refinement process.

If your story is one that in comparison seems more difficult than others around you, have you truly pondered the question of what am I supposed to learn and gain from this process?  Do you share that wisdom learned through the heat of the refiners fire?  Has your compassion for others increased as a result of your own challenges?

We are on this earth not only to learn but to help others along the way.  If we neglect to share not only our story but also the wisdom of what we have learned through the process, I believe we are failing and the heat we have endured is for naught.  We all have a story to tell and wisdom to share from it.  What’s yours?

Memories of the Past

 

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We laugh and talk of good times

of memories from our past

always looking backwards

wishing they would last

Do we ever spend the time

living in today?

laughing with the ones we love

and listening to what they say?

the precious tender moments

remembered in the past

are happening here before your eyes

creating memories that will last

 

The Path of Least Conflict – A Fathers Heartache part 18

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This weekend we celebrate the wedding of my oldest nephew, the oldest child of my twin brother.  It is a time for celebration, for our families to come together and spend time this weekend as this new journey in life begins.  Family has always been the most important thing in my life.  The irony of the situation created for me through her infidelity has left me many times scrambling to keep my family tight and close together, amidst great odds and challenges heretofore not thought of in this life of mine.

Family events such as are occurring this week are moments I treasure to be with not only my dear children but also my nieces and nephews.  As a child growing up we were extremely close with our aunts, uncles and cousins and I have always desired the same for my children.  These moments aide in strengthening that bond.

Late last night, to my utter astonishment I receive a text message from my dear son. “Dad, did you get the email on my 7 on 7 football league?  I have 4 games tomorrow” (the tournament also continues into Saturday)  The answer is most often the same when this question arises, no I was not copied on that email.

We have faced this situation many many times in the past when an activity the kids are involved in interfere with a family event.  I have always let my son make his own choices when these situations arise.  I have taught him much about the importance of his family and witnessed many times when these issues arise, he chooses his family first as his priority.  He loves his sports and is an extremely talented and gifted athlete.  He also understands commitment to the team and what that means.  We try to solve these conflicts in order to accomplish both.

This time however a resolution to attend both functions is not possible.  As it is my weekend to spend time with the kids I knew that I could request of him to attend the wedding dinner tonight in place his football.  I knew that he would willingly comply with this as he truly seeks my approval.  However, I have taught him to be able to choose on his own and will always give them that ability, I will provide guidance, however I will never dictate.

Upon receiving his message last night, I asked him to sleep on it and call me in the morning.  This is when my frustration built and the anger kindled.  I received his phone call around 7:30 this morning and we talked about the dilemma and what should be done.  As we were discussing the issue and the special uniqueness of this particular family function in contrast to his commitment to the team, in the background was heard his mother telling him that he had to attend football or she would be really upset with him.   I listened as my son was torn from his family by someone who has been much estranged within their own and turmoil thrust upon him.

The path of least resistance won again as he decided to attend to football over the wedding dinner.  In order to keep the peace in the home he spends the most time in, he chose the path that would create the least conflict. Sad, discouraged and frustrated as I was with this situation, I always give my children their own choices while realizing that is used against me to control the children on the other side. 

Countless times I watch as I allow them to make choices.  The choices chosen are ones for them to avoid conflict as they are confident in our relationship, the choice always follows the path that provides for them the least amount of conflict in their life.  Unfortunately for my dear children, others choose to parent with the power that conflicts provide them in controlling their perceived property.  I miss out on many events with my children as a result of this dynamic, yet I know that they are confident in the fact that I love them and that their security lies within my loving arms and home.

How Fishing Taught me Love is Shown by Actions, Not Words

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When I was a young boy, my father loved to go fishing.  As such he often took us boys along with him.  On many occasions we all went together and would spend the weekend fishing somewhere.  I think my dad probably spent much more time untangling our fishing poles than ever fishing himself, yet this time with my dad created some wonderful memories.  Each year my dad would take us one on one fishing, most often leaving work early and spending an entire afternoon, late into the evening together fishing.

One such trip I remember was fishing along the Weber river.  I must have been about ten at the time.  I was so excited to spend time alone with my dad, just the two of us.  My mom packed us a dinner, tuna sandwiches and creme soda.  My dad loved creme soda!  I don’t remember much what we talked about on that trip as we drove just over an hour to reach our destination.  What I do remember is the time with my dad in the car, just the two of us.  I got to sit up in the front seat with him and I am certain, that my like my children with me, I talked his ear off.   The images of that ride in the car with my dad are burned into my mind, I can still see me sitting in that car and the wonderful moment in time that we had alone.   With 6 boys in the family, that didn’t happen often but I remember the moments in time when it did.  They left a forever footprint on my impressionable mind.

I don’t recall catching many fish that day.  What I do remember is walking along the shoreline of the river as we fished up and  down the banks.  I am certain that i tangled my pole in the trees more than once and snagged the line on the branches floating along the banks.  My dad was out a ways in the river fishing, his hip waders keeping him dry as he fished.

As darkness began setting in that night, I tripped over a rock and splashed into the frigid river.  My dad quickly at my side, he helped me back up and over to the shore.  Our night of fishing would be over, the wet clothes and the cool autumn wind made for a rather cold little boy, shivering to stay warm, yet unwilling to complain.  My dad knew how cold I was and helped me along the shoreline towards the parked car.

I remember extremely well the long ride home that night.  With no clothes to change into and no blanket to keep me warm, I sat in the front seat in my underwear shivering as the heater from the car warmed up to keep me warm. While I was very cold, my father on the other hand, not being wet was extremely hot with the heater on.  As the sweat beaded on his forehead as we drove down the freeway he kept talking with me and asking me if I was warm enough and how I was doing.  

As a ten year old little boy i truly never understood the magnitude of his actions.  As a grown man, I understand deeply the magnitude of the unselfishness exhibited by my loving father that night.  My dad’s own personal childhood, filled with abuse and sorrow created a difficulty for him to tell us he loved us, his actions always told us of his love as he always placed his family first.  This was truly evident that night as a loving father helped carry his young cold and wet son along a darkened riverbank in hip waders ending his night of fishing early and then driving in a car too hot for him to bear to keep his son warm. 

Love is best expressed through actions, not words. My father showed this that night and many many others.  I pray that I can be half the man he was, that my legacy with my children will be one of love through actions and deeds.

 

(The picture is of my 11 year old son on our last fishing trip)

Wanting to Belong

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Standing on the outside

Always looking in

Blind to some around me

much to my chagrin

A life so full of service

Attempting to belong

With those who do not see me

Invisible all along

A world so full of laughter

and love for all to share

standing alone inside the room

where no one seems to care

Continuing on in faith and love

I stand here all alone

Giving to those all around

Yet never being home

I stand here in the midst of you

longing to be seen

yet gossip swirls all around

as others belittle and demean

so maybe life is best alone

with my family at my side

protected from the world we live

with all its’ gossip and its’ lies